State senator decides not to run for Congress

CARSON CITY — State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, dropped his bid for the new Congressional District 4 because he would have to serve too long there before he could work on Nevada issues.

Instead, he said Monday that he will run for a third term in the state Senate.

“You have to be in Congress for three or four terms before you can actually work on Nevada issues,” Lee said. “If I am in the state Legislature, I can work on them now. I am not interested in titles. I am interested in working for Nevada.”

Lee will seek re-election for Senate District 1, which runs north from Craig Road, between Decatur Boulevard on the west and Lamb Boulevard on the east.

After Lee originally announced his congressional ambitions, Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, announced he would run for Lee’s Senate seat. Democrats hold a 21 percentage point lead over Republicans in the district.

Atkinson said Monday that he had not spoken with Lee, but that he was “considering all my options.”

By dropping out of the congressional race, Lee gives a big leg up to state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who also has announced his candidacy for the congressional seat. State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, also is running for the congressional seat in what is a heavily Democratic district that runs from Las Vegas into rural Nevada, as far north as Smith Valley in Lyon County.

Lee said he will support Horsford’s congressional bid.

“Steven and I get along great,” Lee said.

He added neither Horsford nor U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., discouraged him from running for Congress.

“I went back to Washington four times,” Lee said. “I had one foot in Washington and one foot in Nevada and I could not drag that foot out of Nevada. I am enthusiastic about what I am doing now. I love our state so much.”

If he wins a third term to the Senate, Lee would be the ranking Democrat in terms of service. For the first time, the Senate will be operating completely under term limits. Veteran Sens. Mike McGinness, Dean Rhoads, Valerie Wiener and Mike Schneider cannot seek re-election.

He added he does not believe he needs a top leadership position in the Senate to be an effective senator. Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, generally is considered as the presumptive choice to replace Horsford as the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

Lee, 57, and his wife, Marilyn, are the parents of seven children, the youngest of whom is 21. He served two terms in the Assembly before winning his first term in the state Senate in 2004.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3900.


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